Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Tolkien, Avengers: Endgame, Shadow, New Amsterdam, Poms, Vice Squad and more


Avengers: Endgame – Really, what’s left to say about Avengers: Endgame? Not only is it an amazing, epic film, but it’s now become the highest-grossing film of all time. I think it’s pretty clear that everyone loves this movie. And rightfully so. The culmination of the past ten years of Marvel movies, Endgame is the perfect capstone to the first phase of Marvel movies. It’s amazing how Marvel managed to get all the main characters back into focus just in time for the biggest battle we’ve ever seen on screen. And the moments in the film; so many great moments. It’s hard to go into them without giving away any spoilers, but that Captain America scene… you know the one I’m talking about. It’s a beautiful movie, and a true achievement. And as someone who’s been reading comics since I was just a little kid, it’s one of the best moviegoing experiences I’ve ever had.

Tolkien – Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins star in this biopic about J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit novels. It focuses mostly on his younger years, and we learn what shaped him as an author and a man. Now, I’ve seen some complaints that the movie leaves out some things that were germane to Tolkien’s life, such as his faith, and that may be true. Honestly, I know very little about Tolkien’s personal life, so I’m not sure what the movie glosses over, but, I mean, it’s a Hollywood biopic. I just expect them all to gloss over things. The movie is well-acted and well-directed, but I wish it was a little more engaging. At almost two full hours, the movie slows down at times and can be a little dull at times. It’s an okay watch, but it’s not one of the great biopics, and not nearly as epic as I would hope for someone who created such epic adventures.

New Amsterdam: Season One – Ryan Eggold has been fantastic in everything I’ve seen him in, and New Amsterdam is no different. I really liked him on The Blacklist, and his supporting role in Spike Lee’s excellent BlacKkKlansman was one of the best parts of the film. Now he gets a well-deserved starring role in New Amsterdam, a medical drama on network television. On the surface, the show is pretty standard stuff. Eggold plays a medical director at a hospital Who Isn’t Afraid to Break the Rules and Challenge the Status Quo. Which means, of course, that he’s often going up against bureaucracy to try and get patients the best care they can get. But, as formulaic as it may be, it’s a formula that works, and Eggold provides the charm and spark necessary to make it work well. With the new season coming soon, this is a great chance to get caught up before it starts.

Shadow – Acclaimed director Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers, Hero) crafts a new wuxia action film with Shadow, and he really tries to explore some interesting visual territory with it. Not only do you get the usual extremely impressive and intricate action scenes, but the film is shot in a sort of black and grey color palette, with just splashes of color – usually blood when somebody gets killed. The story is a little more interesting than some of the usual Asian action fare, with a “shadow” lookalike warrior under the charge of a military commander that could lead the kingdom to war. It’s an incredibly visually striking film, and it’s one of the better outings from this genre I’ve seen recently.

Poms – An all-star cast of golden girls star in Poms, the story of a group of women in a senior living community who decide to participate in a cheerleading competition. Frankly, it’s exactly the movie you expect it to be, but that’s a good thing. It’s got it’s clunky moments but overall it’s cute and charming, and with a cast that includes Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier, Rhea Perlman, and Celia Weston, it’s hard not to get caught up in the fun. The film has a good heart, great performances, and is a brisk 90 minutes, making it an easy watch.

Vice Squad – This is the kind of release that I love Scream Factory to put out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of their horror outings, but I really love when they get into the old school gritty crime thrillers, because that’s one of my favorite genres. This 1982 cult classic stars Season Hubley, Gary Swanson, and Wings Hauser. This one sees a brutal cat-and-mouse game between a prostitute, her pimp, and a cop, and it’s a lot of fun. Sure, it’s dated and it has some moments that haven’t aged particularly well. But there’s a feel to early ‘80s crime thrillers that you can’t find anywhere else, and I love it.

The Command – A strong international cast including Matthias Schoenaerts, Lea Seydoux, Max Von Sydow, and Colin Firth star in this drama based on a real-life submarine emergency. In 2000, a Kursk submarine sank and the Russian government infamously handled it disastrously. This film portrays both the crew’s struggle to survive and the behind-the-scenes political juggling that made things even worse. The cast gives great performances and the film has some really gripping moments. It’s not a complete slam dunk; the film has a few slower moments and it’s not the action film the cover indicates, but overall it’s a strong drama.

Amazing Grace – This documentary feature about Aretha Franklin is pretty impressive, although it’s sadly released only on DVD and not on Blu-ray. Directed by Sydney Pollack, it’s not a biography of the late singer. Instead, it’s a document of Franklin’s recording of her best-selling “Amazing Grace” gospel album, recorded at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles In 1972 with the Southern California Community Choir. Apparently, this was supposed to be released years ago, but there were problems getting the audio and video to synch that went unsolved until just recently. The end result is a blistering look at the Queen of Soul at the height of her powers, belting out gospel songs in a way you’ve probably never seen before. It’s a terrific snapshot of a powerful moment in time.

Also Available This Week on Blu-ray:

  • The Best of the Carol Burnett Show – This massive box set pretty much includes everything a Carol Burnett Show fan could want. This is what classic television is all about. I grew up watching this show, as I’m sure many of you did, whether in re-runs or when it originally aired. And you know what, it’s still funny. The great thing about The Carol Burnett Show is that the humor never focused exclusively on topical situations, so the comedy isn’t all that dated. Sure, some of the sketches aren’t surefire hits, but by and large, this is comedy at its best. This new box set collection collects 33 of there most well-loved and popular episodes across 11 discs that are sure to have fans laughing as hard now as they did over 40 years ago. On top of that, there are several of hours of bonus features and a cool collectible book. It’s hard to argue with what a great package this is for fans of the show!
  • CMA Awards Live: Greatest Moments 1968 – 2015 – I’ve never been a huge country music fan, but I can always appreciate a terrific DVD release, and for country music fans, that release is here. CMA Awards Live: Greatest Moments 1968-2015 offers up three discs of some of the most memorable live music performances from nearly 50 years of CMA Awards shows. With songs performed by Alabama, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, Loretta Lynn, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, George Strait, Taylor Swift, Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Trisha Yearwood, Lionel Richie, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and dozens of others, even I’VE heard of many of the songs in this collection. There are also some acceptance speeches and interviews, providing more added value to an already value-packed release
  • The Running Man – Not to be confused with the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi cult classic, this new release from Arrow Video is actually a 1963 thriller starring Laurence Harvey and Lee Remick. Directed by Carol Reed, who helmed The Third Man, the film follows a man who faked his own death and as waiting for his wife to arrive with the insurance money when the investigating insurance agent shows up in the tropical locale he’s retired to. Is it a coincidence, or is the agent on the trail of the deception. It’s a taut thriller that I found more engaging than many similar films from the early ‘60s. Arrow Films continues their quest to become the next Criterion Collection by offering the film on Blu-ray with restored picture and a slew of extra features, making this a real treat of a release.
  • The Brink – This Asian action film stars Max Zhang, who I had never heard of two months ago and have now seen in three recent home video releases. The film is pretty typical action fare: a cop is out to bring a gold smuggler to justice, but what sets the movie apart is the relentless action scenes. The cover art for the film shows two guys brawling deep underwater, and there’s a reason for that; the action doesn’t stop even when the characters end up underwater! It’s gloriously over the top, but it’s also a lot of fun.
  • Vault – Don Johnson and Chazz Palminteri co-star with some lesser known main actors in this mob-based heist film. Set in 1975, it’s the story of one of the biggest heists in American history, where two small-time crooks participate in a heist to steal some $30 million from the mob. Johnson and Palminteri add a little nice flavor to what is otherwise a very by-the-numbers crime thriller. The story is pretty interesting but the film takes a little longer to tell it than it needs to, but the cast is game and overall the film is efficient if less-than-original.
  • Trial By Fire – This moving drama is based on the real life case of Cameron Todd Willingham, a man who’s house burned down with his three toddler daughters inside in Texas in the early 1990s Suspicion quickly turned to Willingham as a suspect and he was quickly convicted and sentenced to death for arson and murder. That’s just the beginning of the movie, though, The bulk of the drama comes from Willingham’s fight from jail and the woman (played by Laura Dern) who strikes up a correspondence with him while he’s in jail. It’s an eye-opening (if a bit too black-and-white) look at the justice system and its many flaws, and it will probably leave you questioning the justice system just a little bit. The performances are great, and the film itself is solid if unspectacular.
  • Under the Silver Lake – I like a good mystery thriller, and this new one starring Andrew Garfield and Riley Keough caught my attention. Garfield (who I think is a terrific actor) stars as Sam, a man who finds a mysterious woman swimming in his pool one day. The next day she goes missing, causing Sam to go off in search of her and uncovering some twisty truths in the process. The film is by the director of the terrific horror movie It Follows, but it’s a much more surreal film, focusing heavily on voyeurism and pop culture, giving us a weird blend of mystery and comedy. It works because Garfield is the glue that holds it all together, but it’s an offbeat film that might not be for everyone.
  • The Kid – Vincent D’Onofrio moves behind the camera to direct The Kid, a drama detailing the story of a teenage boy who witnesses Billy the Kid’s showdown with Sherriff Pat Garrett. Dane DeHaan stars as Billy the Kid, while Ethan Hawke gives a terrific performance as Pat Garrett. Chris Pratt also shows up as the main character’s barbarous uncle, and he’s surprisingly effective as a bad guy. As seems to be a trend this week, the fil is a bit too long, coming it at just over two hours, but overall I liked it. The cast is great, the story is interesting, and I’ve always found Billy the Kid fascinating. Worth a watch, but be aware it’s not a perfect film.
  • I love Lucy: Colorized Collection – I have mixed emotions about this new collection of I Love Lucy episodes. On the one hand, it’s a nice collection of 16 of the series’ most famous and well-loved episodes, including the one where Lucy meets Superman. On the other, hand, the episodes are colorized, which is a trend I never really had a lot of use for. On the other OTHER hand, the colorization technique is miles ahead of where the process was back in the ‘80s when colorizing old movies first became popular. These episodes look much more natural and lifelike than you’d expect to see from a colorized show. So if you’re looking to maybe introduce the show to a younger audience that might get turned off by black-and-white, I guess this a good way to do it, even if I’m not a huge fan of colorizing overall.
  • Mill Creek Spotlight – Mill Creek specializes in bringing us budget titles that offer great value: well-loved movies and TV shows as well as lesser-seen cult classics. This week they’ve got a wave of releases that sweep many different categories. First up, we’ve got three entries in their Retro VHS Collection, which sees Blu-rays packaged in slipcovers that mock-up old rental store VHS video covers, a nice nostalgic treat. Roxanne is easily the strongest of the three, as it’s one of my favorite Steve Martin movies and a true ‘80s comedy classic. The New Kids is a really fun cult throwback starring a very young James Spader and Lori Loughlin and directed by Sean S. Cunningham (the original Friday the 13th) It’s a stalking/abduction thriller, and Spader is terrific as an obsessed bad seed. Meanwhile, White Line Fever is an action flick starring Jan-Michael Vincent and Slim Pickens about a trucker who gets forced to carry illegal contraband and must fight back to earn his mothertrucking freedom! It’s not great, but it is an enjoyable enough watch for what it is. Next up, we have the Blu-ray release of The Ugly American, a 1963 drama starring Marlon Brando. Brando plays an ambassador in a war-torn South Asian country, and he gives a terrific performance, even if the film itself is less exciting than you might want. I was very excited to see the Hart to Hart: Movies are Murder Collection, which collects the eight TV movies made after Hart to Hart finished its run. I always loved Hart to Hart as a kid, and while there was a complete series DVD release a couple of years ago, this is the first time you’ve been able to own a full collection of the TV movies. They’re a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to revisit a terrific TV series from the 1980s. Finally, Pan Am: The Complete Series is a budget re-release of the series collection of Pan Am, a short-lived but fun soapy drama TV series from 2012. Starring Christina Ricci and Kellie Garner, the show focused on the flight attendants and pilots of Pan Am Airlines in the swinging 60s, and while it never found an audience, it was a pretty entertaining show, giving us the usual soap opera tropes in a different setting than usual If you’re looking for something to binge that you might not have seen before (and you want to do it cheaply), this is a good set to pick up for a weekend watch party.
  • Indie Spotlight – We’ve got a good half-dozen or so new independent releases this week, and a lot of it is pretty artsy fare. First up is The Souvenir, a love story starring Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, and Tilda Swinton. The movie follows a young film student as she falls in love with a complicated man, and from there it’s a whirlwind of drama and melodrama. The film has a very nonlinear atmosphere, and it wears its emotions on its sleeve. I can’t say it was my cup of tea, but if you’re in the mood for a deep drama, it might be worth a look. Next up is Shiraz: A Romance of India, a 1928 silent film that’s been restored and released on Blu-ray. Featuring some impressive visuals and a love story based on historical events that ultimately led to the building of the Taj Mahal, the film manages to have some slow moments, even at just 82 moments in length. However, the restoration is beautiful; this is one of the best-looking films I’ve seen on Blu-ray from the silent era. Another film making its Blu-ray debut is the 1990 Cannes darling The Reflecting Skin, starring a young Viggo Mortensen. It’s a strange sort of drama, involving a young boy who thinks a woman in town is a vampire, and then feels he has to save his older brother (Mortensen) from her when he falls for the woman. It’s an interesting movie, directed by Philip Ridley, and Mortensen gives a good performance, even if he’s a bit raw It’s more of an oddity now than a film that I think will win people over, but I’m sure there’s an audience out there for it. Next up is The Whirlpool, an extremely interesting and sexually charged film about two strangers who meet in Niagara Falls, fall into a quick romance/tryst, and then road trip across New York to Boston together. Super low budget and shot in a cinema verite style, it plays out less like a narrative movie and more like the home movie of a young couple possibly in love. I’m not sure if I liked it or not, but it was certainly different. Rafiki, finally, is not a spin-off of the current Lion King remake in cinemas, much as the title might imply otherwise. Instead, it’s actually an important film from Kenya, where it was originally banned for its positive portrayal of gay romance, as the film follows two young women who long to be together. It then won a landmark supreme court case that helped to loosen some restrictions and anti-LGBT legislation in a country where homosexuality is still illegal. A message movie that has won several festival awards and was an official selection at Cannes, this film will appeal to many audience members for its importance and subject matter.

Next PostPrevious Post

Amazon Prime Free Trial